Making Noise

The day before yesterday was the 17th anniversary of the 9/11 tragedy. I spent most of the day seeing, and then ignoring, related posts of people remembering where they were that day, what they were doing, who they lost. It has become a yearly thing now. I said I was ignoring the posts after a while, not due to a sense of annoyance or to diminish people’s grief – the thing is that so many countries experienced so many such tragedies over time, that highlighting only one of them starts to feel kind of obnoxious after a while.

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Let me explain – yes 9/11 was monstrous. It was mostly monstrous not because people died (though that was awful of course) but because it was a willful act of hate and destruction, aimed at one country, but resonating throughout humanity. Unfortunately, throughout human history, there have been many others like it, such as the Holocaust, the repeated terrorist attacks in France, the terrorist attacks in the UK, in Brussels, and in many other places, many of which left people dead and injured, not just physically, but also emotionally and physically. They left whole countries scarred, a whole people in fear and loathing for their fellow man. 

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All of these events were serious and should not be forgotten. Ever. And yet, it seems like no matter how many atrocities take place, no matter how much humanity is shown the cruel face of its darkest side, no matter how many times we stumble, we get up again, brush our knees from the dust and the blood, and move on again towards the light. Or we try to anyways.

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Thing is, sometimes it seems to me as though the 9/11 tragedy is given much more prominence than all the others. Why? Is it more important? Is that because it happened in the US? Because it was the sign of something which the other tragedies lack? Because we felt it more? Or is it… because the US simply made more of a fuss about it? I say this in a good way, because such tragedies SHOULD be made a fuss of. No, we should not remain silent and take it. We should not forget or let ‘bygones be bygones’. So, why are some tragedies less talked about than others?

In this world, no one stands up and listens to you unless you make yourself heard. No one will take their time to pay attention to you unless you attract their attention and tell them that you have something important to communicate. No one will take notice, if you don’t make noise, if you don’t scream, yell, cry, shriek, and make a ruckus. No one will give something importance, if you yourself don’t show that it is important to you.

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And so, yes, write, talk, scream, make a fuss, throw a tantrum. Some things are worth making a scene about.

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The Poison Garden at Alnwick Gardens

Have you ever fantasised about poisoning someone? Be honest. Well, if you have, you will, perhaps, feel a little less ashamed in knowing that you are not the only one. Testament to this is the notorious ‘Poison Garden’ sprawling, beautiful and deadly, right in the middle of the gardens at Alnwick Castle in northeast England.

I must admit that when I first visited Alnwick Castle, my main motivation for going was the fact that it was one of the main castles used to portray Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry in the Harry Potter movies. Fandom apart, I love exploring castles whenever I’m abroad and while reading about the various historical attractions one can find in Northumberland, of which there are many, Alnwick caught my attention for many reasons.

Originally built during the 11th century, Alnwick Castle is the second largest inhabited castle in England being the seat of the Duke of Northumberland, who with his family, actively occupies part of the castle to this day.

While trying not to buy too many souvenirs at the gift shop, right after we had purchased our tickets, I was amazed as I looked through the free visitor’s map and pamphlet they had given us, realising how much we had to explore.

Although the castle itself was enormous (all the different parts were labelled in a diagram), the gardens seemed almost to dwarf it, featuring several differently themed sections formally landscaped around a central water cascade. The pamphlet promised a bamboo maze, a large wooden tree house, a number of water fountains and features, a cherry-tree orchard complete with tree-swings, a deer park and many other attractions which I couldn’t wait to see, however what really piqued my interest as soon as I read the sinister-sounding title on the tiny map, was ‘The Poison Garden’.

After asking about it at the gift shop, I was told that this garden was always kept under lock and key, due to the dangerous plants and flowers growing inside and that one could only enter with an official guide at various prescribed times.

Fortunately, the next guided tour was scheduled to start within 15 minutes, so off we went to find the entrance. The cloudy sky and intermittent rain seemed to be the perfect foil for such a grisly tour and as we waited in front of the iron-wrought gate with a number of other visitors huddling underneath rain-jackets and umbrellas, I couldn’t help but wonder at the giant lock and painted skulls warning us off.

Finally, a lady with a jolly smile greeted us, cautioning us against touching anything within  the garden once we were inside. This, she said, was because every tree, plant, leaf and flower inside was highly poisonous, not only through ingestion but even through touch. The gate was opened and we filed in slowly, only to have it clang shut behind us and padlocked once more. Every tree, plant, leaf and flower inside the garden is highly poisonous.

Every tree, plant, leaf and flower inside the garden is highly poisonous.

The first thing we saw as we shivered in the rain and waited for the guide to start explaining the different plants to us, was a large black coffin. Smiling, our guide told us that even though it was not Halloween, that coffin was always there as a warning and to further set the stage for a number of macabre stories relating to the venom-filled bulbs, roots and plants found inside.

The use of poison dates back as far as spiritual and mythical beliefs have been recorded. Our ancestors knew much about the power of plants. They knew not only which parts of the plants were poisonous, but also what quantities to use to kill, cure, drug, or relieve pain.

The multicoloured trees, shrubs and flowers within the Poison Garden glittered sensuously with rain-drops as we made our way around them while hearing stories about their various uses and the gruesome incidents and murders caused by the plants, which had been historically documented.

The pretty blue flowers of Monkshood, also known as Wolf’s Bane, had been used to poison enemy water supplies during times of war in ancient Europe and Asia, which caused numbness of the throat, intense vomiting, diarrhoea, muscular weakness, spasms, paralysis of the respiratory system, and convulsions which could be fatal.

Yet another innocuous-looking shrub was revealed by our guide to be ‘wormwood’, which is one of the ingredients used to make Absinthe. Sporting tiny yellow flowers, wormwood is both a hallucinogenic and an emetic, it is in fact banned in most countries.

Although the ancients knew how to use herbs and plants to heal, it was very easy to misconstrue their dosage or use, thus resulting in a number of ailments and deaths.

Belladonna, also known as deadly nightshade, is well-known today to be made of foliage and berries which are highly toxic, however Venetian ladies used the juice from this plant as a cosmetic. It was, in fact, distilled as eye drops with the aim of enlarging and darkening the pupils, making the eyes look larger and more mysterious, hence the name ‘bella donna’ which means ‘beautiful woman’ in Italian.

The guide told us that the poison in this pant is so effusive, that just three of its tiny sweet-tasting shining black berries are enough to kill an infant.

Our guide also explained that many of the poisonous plants found within the garden at Alnwick grow avidly in the wild and can be erroneously ingested by a pet or child left unsupervised.  Even the common daffodil, that is the narcissus, can be poisonous, since the bulbs contain toxic alkaloids.

As we walked even deeper into the garden, I noticed that one small section in particular was dramatically cordoned off with chains. Seeing me looking at it in undisguised curiosity, the guide smiled and showed us the small sign at its edge. This in fact, was the ‘illegal drug’ section.

 The Poison Garden at Alnwick was often a site for teachers and parents to bring students and children, in order to educate and caution them on drug abuse and the misuse of illegal substances.

She assiduously pointed out that all the illegal plants found in this part of the garden, such as marijuana (cannabis) which is a hallucinogen and cocaine, which causes nose ulcers, convulsions and depression, among other effects, were grown with express permission from the government under a Home Office licence.

Other commonly-found poisonous plants we saw and discussed during our visit included bluebells and snowdrops, whose bulbs are very poisonous when ingested and which can cause nausea, diarrhoea and vomiting.

There was also common Juniper, whose berries can be fatal in small amounts; prickly lettuce, which is a sedative and can be addictive; oleander, which is highly toxic and may cause skin irritation if touched, and death if eaten; the opium poppy, which is a source of morphine, laudanum and heroin; and the tobacco plant, whose nicotine effects are well known.

In other words, if you find yourself walking along a wild garden or forest, be very careful what you smell, touch, or put in your mouth, because even though something may seem pretty and innocuous, appearances can be deceiving!

The exterior of Alnwick Castle.

By the way, this article was originally published by the Maltese newspaper The Sunday Times, however due to a bug embedded in the webpage concerned, I am told that I am unable to share it in any browser for now, which is why I am resorting to my blog.

The url itself, strangely enough, is still working, so if you want to take a look at the original, go here

Update: the bug has been cleared and any shares have been restored… ugh what a mess! Not gonna delete this entry from my blog now anyways. So there!

Runner

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A moment
frozen
crystallized in time
one of a multitude

Icy eyes
what have you seen?
Blue and cold
lost passions, hidden possibilities

A face 
you were smooth
once
before the withering storm

We are all blank canvasses
waiting for life to fill us
waiting to die

The rain falls
carrying with it
all those moments
all those memories

Lost 
once our eyes close
Gone
without an echo

Who are you?
Did anyone ever really know?

© M. A.
29.05.2018

Jigsaw – A Movie Review *SPOILERS*

So, just finished watching the last movie in the ‘Saw’ franchise, which I’ve been a HUGE fan of for the past 10 years… and I must say, I was quite disappointed.

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The prime thing which had attracted me to all the Saw movies, apart from the inventive torture devices, was actually the ability of the writers/producers to interlock all the movies and storylines togather like a jigsaw puzzle. That was the genius of the whole thing – that while the first movie in the franchise was taking place, chronologically we (later realize) that movies number 2 and 3 were also taking place (with different individuals) at the same time! I don’t want to give any spoilers here but I kind of had to in this case. So basically the some of the whole was better than it’s individual parts.

And that’s great HOWEVER as of the third and fourth movies we started seeing a common plot emerge, which the writers just continued to exploit by repeating again and again… and in the case of the latest ‘Jigsaw’ movie, yet AGAIN.

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For Pete’s sake, how many ‘disciples’ did this guy have? How many ‘ex-victims’ did he ‘convert’ to his ideology of pain? Were they all unaware of each other? And will the producers continue to milk this cow forever? It was a great idea and twist the first time round, and ok the second time round too. But a third secret disciple… and a fourth? Even at a distance of 10 years from Kramer’s death?

Ugh – yea again sorry for the spoilers. I just wish I could erase this last movie from my head and keep the old ones. So, thanks, but no thanks.

My Secret Fear

Are you afraid of old age?

Ever since I can remember, it was not the thought of death which really terrified me, but of actually growing old. The thought of not having complete control of my body, and not being able to function in a self-sufficient manner, has always been a nightmare. I hate depending on others and being a burden, and the knowledge and certainty that someday, this time will arrive (if I do not die young that is), has always terrified me.

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When I was nineteen, my grandfather, who was a writer, a poet, and a very intelligent man and whom I loved very much – had a stroke. He ended up in a wheel-chair, was not able to move the left side of his body at all, suffered from incontinence, and had to be lugged about, washed, cleaned, and taken care of by his two middle aged children and their spouses in order to survive. Day and night. Every day. For years. He begged us to let him end it. Twice, my mother found he had dragged his wheelchair to the window and was trying, ineffectually, to jump. Since assisted suicide is illegal in Malta, and since we didn’t want to let him go, we aborted his attempts. He suffered immensely for two years. And then, he had another stroke. A worse one, which caused him to actually forget who we were. I don’t even want to go into the agony I felt when my grandpa, who had been so independent, witty, and wise, who had survived the war and taught me to love books, reading and knowledge – didn’t even know who I was.

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Anyways, after four and a half years of terrible pain, my grandpa died. I know that for him, this was a relief.

My grandma, his wife, is currently over 80 years old. She suffers from severe arthritis, can hardly walk, is almost deaf, and blind from one eye due to a botched cataract operation. She is lonely and misses my grandpa a lot. All she does is cry, swallow her pills (she has many of those), and pray. I love my grandma, but I know she is waiting for death. And that terrifies me.

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It terrifies me because when I look at her, I see myself, as I will be, in some fifty or so years. It seems far away now… but time is short and flies quickly… and someday, that part of my life will arrive…

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It does not bear thinking about…

 

Before Tea Time

She had stolen mother’s lipstick. Her crimson gash of a mouth was stretched in a satisfied smirk. Her dirty bitten finger-nailed hands opened and closed slightly as she held D. My treasure. My hope. My friend.

I asked her to let her go.
First, I asked her softly. Tears hidden. Lips rubbery.
Second, I asked her mockingly. Hands behind my back. Flawless syntax.
Third, I asked her forcefully. Cheeks cherry with rage. Feet shuffling.

She only laughed.

I rushed at her and it was over suddenly. That bubble gum face disappearing down the stairs. The surprisingly tepid thump as she hit the bottom. Those clutching hands, broken, lifeless under a twisted back.

I looked at Dolly. Dolly looked at me. A wave of love and compassion stole over me. Poor dear had her hair all plastered to her head. Time for some tidying up.doll

© Melisande Moonsong

This is a quick piece of flash fiction I wrote for the ‘Ad Hoc Fiction Competition‘. Don’t really expect to win anything, but it was fun to do.

ANNIVERSARY of Edgar Allan Poe’s Mysterious Death!

I became insane, with long intervals of horrible sanity’ – Edgar Allan Poe

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Technically, this was yesterday, but I only realized today.

Edgar Allan Poe, his works, and his life, have always had a special fascination for me. He is the daddy of the horror genre and the supernatural mystery. His poems especially are so full of dark romantic agony, that they called to my trembling brimful heart from a very young age. Poe, who married his cousin a child bride of 13 who died only 2 years after the marriage (she was 15). Poe, who forever after wrote sad poems lamenting his pure innocent lost love. Poe who was given to bouts of depression, took laudanum and was a drunk, but published brilliant detective stories, the first of their kind. Poe, who always had a kind of mythological terror of cats, because for him they symbolized the dark wild part of himself, and who feature again and again in small ways in almost all of his prose-work.

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Poe who mysteriously and inexplicably died 166 years ago, yesterday.

Most people erroneously believe he died of his alcoholism but that is not the case. First of all, though he was a known alcoholic, he is reported to have not touched a drop for ages. Also, the person who found him, alone, confused and wandering, in the dark a week after he had disappeared from his home on the way to New York, said he looked sick but not drunk. Secondly, let us keep in mind that the person who wrote Poe’s biography after his death, Rufus Wilmot Griswold was a hated rival who was trying to portray him as badly as possible. He said he was ugly, dirty and unkept, a drunk, a brute and a savage. To which others, Poe’s doctor included, attested he was not. Unfortunately, there was no autopsy done on Poe’s body, and all his medical documents were ‘lost’, so there is no record of what actually took place.

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Theories abound. Some say he died of a heart-attack. Some that it was suicide (he had already overdosed on laudanum once), which is not possible since he was ‘found’ wondering the streets. Some say it was diabetes or tetanus.

Like Poe’s marvelluous detective mysteries, his death too, remains a mystery. Still he played and still plays a big influence on my mode of thought, not to mention my writing and my tastes. ALL HAIL EDGAR ALLAN POE – MASTER OF TERROR!

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Btw this is a very good article on his death – http://www.openculture.com/2015/10/the-mystery-of-edgar-allan-poes-death-19-theories-on-what-caused-the-poets-demise-166-years-ago-today.html

Enjoy 🙂

Last Night, I was Abused. And it was Terrible.

It is terrifying, having your personal space violated. Feeling so helpless and powerless. Unable to do anything.

What’s worse, is knowing that you can be violated and abused again and again. Suddenly and without your consent.

This is what happened to me yesterday, and what, I am afraid, will happen again.

It was 11.30pm and I was reading in bed. My bedside table glowed over the page, as with the main character of my epic fantasy novel, I journeyed through a wasteland learning about love and magic. I was at peace. I was comfortable and felt loved and protected. My boyfriend was asleep next to me, snoring softly. His body heat a dear reminder of his boyish laugh and strong presence. I was happy.

Then, suddenly, everything was corrupted.

I saw something dark fluttering at the corner of my vision. At first I thought nothing of it, being engrossed in my book. The fluttering came again, and I faintly thought that a moth must have gotten in. Half a minute later, I chanced to look down… and I froze in terror.

It was an overwhelmingly large and violently red cockroach.

Hideous in its smug predatorial harvesting, it scurried towards my semi-naked cleavage, which was exposed over the bedsheets. I was petrified. I couldn’t breathe. I couldn’t talk. I couldn’t scream.

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I must have made some small sound of fear however, because the cadaverous monster backtracked a bit, falling down to my stomach. With a low voice, chilling in its urgency, I called my boyfriend, waking him up. He jumped panicked, thinking there was a burglar or intruder who had gotten into the house.

It was worse. It was a rapist.

One definition of a rapist is someone who exerts power over you, in order to violate you against your will. That is how it felt. The hideous creature had invaded my personal space, had actually THE CHEEK to crawl on my skin, while I wasn’t even asleep!!! Who knew where it had come from? Who knew what else had or COULD happen during the night?! Had cockroaches been crawling and smearing their squinty legs all over my body while I had been asleep night after night?

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Feeling my partner shift in the bed, the being crawled down the bedsheet to the floor. I sprung out on the other side of the bed while my bf went after it, yet it disappeared. I was in a panic, hyperventilating and crying. We searched for the terrible beast but could not find it. I knew I couldn’t fall asleep in that bed again, not if we did not find it, and hardly after, since I knew I was not safe there.

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We shifted furniture and bags. We banged on the headboard and the wall. Finally, after 20 minutes, it crawled out.

My love, my dearest one, my soul mate, killed the vile thing. Squashed it under his foot like so much jell-o. Yet it was not enough.

For hours, I lay in terror. Imagining every itch was another disgusting thing squirreling its way towards me. Alternately banging on the headboard and scanning the room, trying to see if there was a blot, a patch of darker blackness, creeping towards me in the night.

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In the morning, I sprinkled cockroach powder everywhere. I do not know what I will find when I get home today, but I hope it’s a cemetery – a horrifying space full of decaying bloated bodies, thin curling legs pawing futilely at the air.

I hope they all die

Game of Thrones – WHY I ALREADY HATE SEASON 5!

FINALLY Game of Thrones Season 5 is premiering on HBO next Sunday!

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I cannot believe it’s finally here! The wait seemed interminable, and its continuation so far away! But it’s finally arrived, which just goes to show how time really flies sometimes. It’s actually frightening if one thinks about it.

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Anyways, as many of George R. R. Martin’s interviews affirmed, not only will this season portray things which happened in the last two books published, it will also go forwards in that some things which have not yet come to pass in the books, but which fall in line with the scope of the story, will appear on screen.

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I am really not happy about this. I understand that trying to fit an epic like GOT onto the screen is no easy thing, however George should have thought things through, especially since he is very much involved in the making of the T.V series itself (which is why, in my opinion, it is one of only a handful of Epic Fantasy novels transposed to film, which has not gone to the dogs). The fact that he continues to postpone the publishing of the next book, ‘The Winds of Winter’ is just a publicity stunt. He wanted the series to catch up with the novels, problem is – now the T.V series has not only caught up, but is surpassing the novels themselves!

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As a reader + watcher of GOT, I much prefer to get new information from the books first, and not from the T.V series!!

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Anyways, I’ve been reading the last two books as a preview of season 5. Am in the middle of the last one now and should be finished by Sunday. Tonight I will also be watching the last 2 episodes of Season 4 again.

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WINTER IS COMING!

(actually Summer is… but what do I know? ;p)

Anime Review – Shiki – A Japanese Vampire-Story

Genre – Horror
No. of Episodes – 24
Anime released in – 2010
My Overall Grading – 3 Stars

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Shiki was a random find. I’ve been combing the anime market for good horrors/psychological thrillers for ages now, and wanted something good with a Japanese cultural flavor. Shiki seemed to fit the bill, even though the romaticised vampire plot-line made me a bit wary, since we’ve seen sentimentalized semi-pornographic versions of it so many times before.

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The anime itself was quite good. It sports Higurashi-like traits, in that it is set in a small, almost cut off, town in rural Japan, with its own customs and legends, where, obviously, something strange starts to happen during one hot Summer, when a large number of people start to mysteriously die off. There the story totally deviates from Higurashi however, in that, although interesting and at times, agonizingly full of emotion, the characters in this anime somehow still fail to gain that certain depth of perspective and credibility. The characters in Shiki are thin, cardboard-like and insubstantial. Although we are given sketchy backgrounds of almost each one, we know that the ten-minute background interlude is gifted to us each time, exactly before said character either dies (which does not mean that they do not actively appear on-screen any more) or otherwise falls into some misfortune. The characters never evolve, they never develop, and, alive or dead, their reactions are hardly credible or even probable.

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That being said, the art used in Shiki is very pleasing, when portraying kawai characters like Sunako, but totally irritating with bland ones like Kaori – and seriously, what’s with all the stupid bombastic hairstyles? And the BOOBS… Lol. Anyways, the guys are all hot, and I loved Megumi’s fashion sense too ;p

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I also loved the fact that in the end, we are so steeped in the lore of the town of Sotoba, that we don’t even see the undead as vampires anymore, but we really and truly perceive them as Shiki. They are blood-thirsty, they are romanticized, but in the end, like their human counterparts, the Shiki just want to live a normal life, they are afraid, they make mistakes, they need help – but no one helps them. The (hot) priest Seishin perfectly persnonalizes the troublesome issue everyone in the village, not to mention we the viewers, feel – the Shiki are parents, friends, husbands, sisters, mothers, loved ones who are just trying to survive – is killing them murder, or is it just self-defence?

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Although the characters leave something to be desired, the issues presented by this anime are quite clear and very deep. In the end, I couldn’t, however, give the anime 4 stars as it still had something lacking, but I would still recommend it.

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